Self-heal

Prunella vulgaris

Common Name: All-Heal, Blue Curls, Brownwort, Brunelle, Brunelle Commune, Brunelle Vulgaire, Brunette, Carpenter’s Herb, Carpenter’s Weed, Charbonnière, Heal-All, Heart of the Earth, Herbe au Charpentier, Hercules Woundwort, Hock-Heal, Petite Consoude, Prunela, Prunella, Prunelle, Prunelle Vulgaire, Self Heal, Sicklewort, Siclewort, Slough-Heal, Woundwort
 
Family: Lamiaciae
TCM Name: Xia Ku Cao
Ayurvedic Name: N/A
Parts Used: leaves, flowering tops
Native To: Northern Hemisphere
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Medicinal Notes

The plant has a long history of medicinal use, and traditionally the leaves are applied to wounds to promote healing. According to the 16th-century herbalist John Gerard, ‘there is not a better wounde herbe in the world’. The 17th-century botanist Nicholas Culpeper wrote that the plant is called self-heal because ‘when you are hurt, you may heal yourself’.

According to KewScience:

“Prior to World War II, it was used to staunch bleeding and for treating heart disease. A decoction of the leaves was used to treat sore throats and internal bleeding. It is used as an anti-inflammatory and has anti-allergic activity. In western medicine it is used externally for treating minor injuries, sores, burns, bruises and can also be used as a mouthwash to treat mouth ulcers.

Whereas in European countries herbalists have mainly used selfheal for treating wounds, in Chinese medicine it is mainly used for treating liver complaints, acting as a stimulant in the liver and gall bladder. Self-heal shows antiviral properties, and in China it is used as an anti-cancer drug.:

Harvesting

Identifying Self-heal

Self-heal is a member of the family Lamiaciae. Prunella vulgaris is a perennial herb, with stems often square, crimson tinged, and erect to decumbent, up to 30 cm tall

According to Show Me OZ:

“To use Heal-All, simply cut the desired amount of stems desired to ground level and avoid pulling up the plant as this effectively kills it.  Always avoid harvesting Heal-All from roadsides, pastures, agricultural fields and other sites that may be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, lead or any number of industrial chemicals because Heal-All is known to readily these chemicals from the soil.”

Constituents

Self-heal contains a wide array of acid compounds including lauric –, oleanolic –, rosmarinic –(antioxidant), linoleic – and ursolic acid. Contains volatile oils (camphor, fenchone), bitters, saponins, tannins, glycoside (aucubin), flavinoids

Uses

 

 Self-heal is used as an astringent for remedying diarrhea and inflammatory bowel issues such as colitis and Crohn’s disease. The bitter constituents stimulate the liver and gall bladder.
 It is helpful to the urinary system as it clears toxins and excess uric acid via the kidneys. It has been widely recommended for gout. As it contains urosolic acid, it has diuretic properties and claims to anticancer properties as a result of research on this particular acid.
 I was excited to read about its benefit to the reproductive system. Its astringency in known to curb heavy menstrual bleeding, menorraghia.
 Self-heal is known to work well with specific types of headaches caused by tension, vertigo, light-sensitivity and high blood pressure.
 It is a wonder for the immune system. While enhancing immunity and reducing fevers, research shows a potent antiviral action, alongside antioxidant effects thanks to the rosmarinic acid compounds. It is recommended for lowered immunity, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome and allergies.
 It is an effective antibiotic and is useful against swollen glands, mumps, glandular fever and mastitis.
 Self-heal has detoxifying capabilities, clearing up inflammation, with an affinity for skin issues.
 TCM has long used it to calm hyperactivity in children.
 Externally, Self-heal has been used as a traditional wound remedy; a tea/compress/poultice on a burn, bite, cut, sprain, sting, varicose vein or ulcer. Drops have been used to help inflammatory eye issues such as conjunctivitis.
                                                       Thanks to Anne McIntyre, The Complete Herbal Tutor
Protocol
Ways to Use: Tincture, infusion, infused oil, powder, salve, compress
Actions: emollient, styptic, tonic, relaxant, antibiotic, liver tonic, antiallergenic, restorative, diuretic, digestive, antioxidant, astringent, hemostatic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory and vulnerary
Taste:  bitter, pungent, acrid 
Energy: cooling, dispersing, slightly moistening
Dosing
Adult Dose

 Tincture: 1:5; 40% ethanol: 2-4 ml three times a day

Tea: 3g in one day as tea or infusion .

External applications: salve, compress, powder or wash as needed.

 

Safety

 

It should not be taken in large doses during pregnancy, but it is sometimes appropriate in small doses at that time.

Herbal How To: Lip Balm

Today we’re making Lavender Lip Balm. The recipe stays consistent for all of the variations. Check out my Soothing Lip Balm post for all of the recipes.
36475466_227427728076719_1617258347487035392_n1. Gather supplies (sauce pan, wooden spoon, measuring cup, infused oils, shea butter, beeswax, essential oils, lip balm tubes)


2. Heat 1/4 cup infused oil in a double boiler on low heat (I used lavender-infused almond oil)


3. Add 1/4 cup shea butter
4. Add 1/8 cup beeswax
5. Stir until fully incorporated

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6. Add 25-30 drops essential oil (I used lavender)


7. Prepare the lip balm tubes
8. Pour (carefully) into lip balm containers


9. Allow to cool and then apply labels
10. Enjoy!

IMG_7428All of these lip balms are available to purchase here.

(Photo credit for the really nice photos: Zeinep Yessenbekova)

Calling All Arborists

While out harvesting, I came upon this unusual Tamarack (?) Larch (thanks, Tony!). I saw several people gathering the succulent baby cones. I wondered for what purpose they could be used.

I am no expert on trees, apart from the few that I use regularly in my herbal remedies. For this, I must rely upon Tony Tomeo. Tony, Can you help me identify this unusual yet ubiquitous (in one part of our forest) conifer? And perhaps shed some light on the uses of their cones?

 

Soothing Lip Balms

A friend and client of mine was in attendance at one of my Herbal Workshops. As the workshop was wrapping up, we were discussing what we should do for the next few workshops. One idea that my friend came up with was a beauty workshop featuring Basic Face Wash and lip balms.

I thought this was a fantastic idea, except for the fact that I had never made lip balms before. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t have any idea about flavours, and I had no containers nor labels.

Step 1: I had to actually find out how to make lip balms.

Step 2: I had to decide what flavours to make, and how to do that as well.

Step 3: I had to test all the lip balms on my friends and family and perfect the recipe.

Step 4: I had forgotten to order the containers beforehand, so an extra step had to be added to make up for this.

Step 5: Bekah had to design the labels, draw them, format them, take them to the printers, etcetera

So I got to work, and after a couple of weeks I had completed all of these steps and the recipe had now been through three iterations. Despite having to hand out so many samples and collect so much feedback, it paid off; I’m really happy with the final product, especially the packaging.

What I was so surprised about was just how easy the lip balms were to make. Anyone can make them at home with the right ingredients, and you don’t even need the tubes as small tins or empty lip balm containers work just fine.

Soothing Lip Balm

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) herb-infused oil
  • 1/8 cup (30 g) beeswax
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) shea butter
  • 25 drops essential oil

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils, butter, and beeswax. 

Stir until the butter and beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars, tins, or tubes.

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Flavour Recipes

Chamomile
Chamomile-infused almond oil
Shea butter
Beeswax
Chamomile essential oil

Mint
Almond oil
Shea butter
Beeswax
Mint essential oil

Rose
Rose and alkanet-infused almond oil (alkanet root lends a gorgeous pink colour)
Shea butter
Beeswax
Rose and geranium essential oils

Lavender
Lavender-infused almond oil
Shea butter
Beeswax
Lavender essential oil

Hemp
Hemp seed oil
Shea butter
Beeswax

Citrus
Calendula-infused almond oil
Shea butter
Beeswax
Red grapefruit and mandarin essential oils

Note: Due to Shea butter’s natural graininess, some of this texture may be found in the lip balm. This is completely normal and- with the heat of your skin- will melt, leaving your lips silky smooth.

You can purchase these lip balms here.

 

(photo credit: Zeinep Yessenbekova)

 

Bee Hotel

My husband and I were in a meadow harvesting St John’s Wort when we happened upon this bee hotel. Foxglove, you make an awesome restaurant/accomodation for my fuzzy friends!

Herbal How To: St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort is a tricky one.

It is so beautiful with its sunny yellow flowers, perforated leaves and unique purpley-red dye that stains your fingers when the buds are squished.blg 3197

We use St John’s Wort as an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant remedy “sunshine in a bottle”, as a powerful wound healer in our Herbal Healing Salve, as a sunscreen and currently, I am working on a new face cream recipe with St John’s Wort-infused almond oil as an SPF component.

For years, my St John’s Wort oils and tinctures never had the red hue that they should have had.

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Proper red-hued St John’s wort oil

I was either using my own harvest from our local forest or quality sourced St John’s Wort from a local herb shop. All of these were used dried.

My oils and tinctures were very often amber or slightly brownish. I didn’t understand why.

After doing some research, it was made clear to me that the drying process degrades the medicinal action of St John’s Wort, therefore, for St John’s Wort to be as effective as possible, it must be processed while fresh. The buds and flowers hold the bulk of the medicinal constituents. This makes harvesting a bit trickier.

In our area, St John’s Wort grows everywhere, but blooms for only two short weeks at the end of June/early July according to the weather and elevation. This gives me two weeks of harvest near my house and an additional week (if I’m lucky) in the hills at a higher elevation.

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Harvesting St John’s Wort in a meadow near our house…got two ticks for this one…ughhh

I use St John’s Wort all year in oil and tincture form. It is highly prized here and if it can only be processed fresh for best results, then I have to get myself out harvesting and harvest often during this couple of week window that I have.

I harvest the tops of the plants, gathering as many buds as possible. Leaving them for a couple of days to wilt, I then chop just the buds and flower heads up as finely as possible and infuse them in oil or alcohol. I leave stems and leaves to add to my Keep Calm Tea.

Using this method, my oils and tinctures have been a deep red colour and I feel their potency has markedly improved.

 

An Herbalist’s Toolbox: Vacuum Sealer

While none of these tools in my Herbalist’s Tool Box are necessary, there are many (all of them, really) that make a big difference to the quality of processing and the efficiency/convenience when having to make bigger batches or process a bulk of herbs.32331976_159205654922257_420044601798164480_n

The Vacuum Sealer

I have boxes and boxes of dried herbs which I store in alphabetised plastic crates. Until recently, I stored them in paper bags. This worked well, except for the issues of opened bags, space limitations, contamination of one herb to another and spillage.

My husband heard my concerns and brought home for me this vacuum sealer. It’s pretty decent, does the job and was inexpensive.

I like to be organised and efficient. It helps me to accomplish more in the limited time that I have.

Next to my dehydrator, I keep my vacuum sealer, extra rolls of vacuum seal bags, scissors and a permanent marker.

 

 

I prepare for vacuum sealing by cutting some strips off the roll and vacuum sealing an end.

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As soon as the plant material has made its way out of the dehydrator, I pop it into the vacuum seal bag. This is horsetail (Equisetum).

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It then gets vacuumed sealed. This takes about 30 seconds.

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I label and date it and then pop it into its appropriate bin.

I am able to store so much more now, in a cleaner and fresher environment. As I use the herbs, if I don’t need all of what is in the bag, I just re-seal it and re-label it.

Since I have it set up right next to my dehydrator, it has become a part of this routine and has added only a couple of minutes to my processing procedure.

Update: The company that my husband works for, eujuicers and Sana products, is making a prototype vacuum sealer. I am very excited to test it and let you know the results. Until then, I am satisfied with my Razorri.

Ladybugs Gone Wild!

This year, after a year of dedicated bio gardening, the ladybugs have returned with a vengeance. It’s like Nature is helping me out; I don’t poison, and she sends me the bugs I need instead.

The ladybugs have taken up residence in my tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) plants.

They spend their days eating aphids…and getting it on…I have never seen such obscene behaviour, even on a nature documentary. If you are of the ilk with more delicate sensibilities, hide your eyes….

 

 

Herbal Workshop: Nature Walk

 

My first Nature Walk was a great success. My fellow Herbal Warriors and I had a great time together identifying medicinal plants and then making infused oils.

 

 

 

After spraying ourselves with Leave Me Alone! Insect Repellent (and some tick spray on our shoes, just to be safe), we headed out armed with plant identification cards that I made specific to this forest, bottled water, gloves and bags fro carrying our harvest.

 

 

 

 

The cards were really useful in aiding our identification of medicinal plants…even some toxic ones.

 

 

 

 

These lovely girls have found cleavers (Gallium aparine). Super fun!

 

 

 

 

It was lovely to be out in nature with like-minded people. We shared our personal experiences with these plants and enjoyed being among our fellow creation, humans and plants in synergy.

 

 

Afterwards, we were treated to Dan’s fresh-baked strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, all picked freshly that morning, complete with oat flakes he had specially ground for the crumble topping. Thanks, Dan!

 

Everyone got to choose herbs that we had seen on our walk to make an infused oil to take home. The herbs were ground up in our juicer and then olive oil was added.IMG-9868

Here are the identification cards I made for our Nature Walk. I should have put them in alphabetical order…this is on my to do list.

My next Nature Walk will highlight late summer plants.

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It’s the simple things….

A tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, chive (Allium schoenoprasum) blossom and a flower stalk from Salvia caradonna…

 

 

 

I took a brief walk in my garden to think, relax and meditate before my Herbal Workshop last Sunday. I cut a few leaves here, a few flowers there and popped them into some old Coke bottles.  They look lovely on my simple wooden table.

 

Herbal Workshop: Spa

My Spa Herbal Workshop was a great success. My fellow Herbal Warriors and I had a great time together making Calendula Face Cream and Chamomile Face Cream.

 

After arriving at my house, each participant was offered freshly made sun tea and herbal citrus water. While they enjoyed the refreshment, we went over the recipes for that day’s herbal remedies. Spa Recipes 20.5

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The goal of this workshop was to demystify the metamorphosis that happens when water and oil are emulsified into a cream. I remember the first time I made a cream, it was like I had become a wizard or an alchemist. To blend a host of waters with a mixture of oils into a smooth cream was magical.

First, the oils and wax are melted in a double boiler on low heat.

This is then left to cool. We treated ourselves to a delicious cherry and chocolate coffee cake (brought by one of the participants. Thanks, Pamela!) while we waited for the oil mixture to cool. It was a lovely sunny day in the garden, perfect for chatting and chilling while we waited.

After about 20 minutes, the oils had partially solidified and we were ready for stage two. The oils were scraped into a blender and set to high speed.

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Photo credit: Pamela Douglas

We added the water mixture into the vortex of the blending oils and…VOILA!

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A beautiful sight, this is. A perfectly blended face cream. It smells and feels so good and is super healing for your skin.

Everyone filled their jar with the cream, they could choose either Chamomile or Calendula, and affixed super cute labels on (all designed and hand-drawn by my daughter, Rebekah). The rest of the cream was scraped out meticulously and soon everyone was applying it to their faces, arms, legs…it was pretty funny.

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All the workshop participants left with their cream of choice, some salve samples and a magazine from my friend Marek who runs a juicer company, mipam.cz. He provided for us that day a Vitamix blender (so I could have more than one blender running) and even coupons for products that he sells. Thanks, Marek!

I am really looking forward to our next workshops!

Herbal Workshop 17.6

Herbal Workshop 22.7

Nature Walk 5.8

Herbal Workshop 16.9

Photo credit: Zeinep Yessenbekova

 

Herbal Energetics: Dry

If we can agree that a cucumber is moist and cooling while a chili pepper is hot and drying then we can see that we each have a unique combination of Hot, Dry, Cold and Damp, plants and humans alike.

 

Most herbs are effectively drying. The combined actions of the overwhelming majority of herbs lead to some driving out of fluids from the body. These actions can be in the form of increasing urination or sweating through diuresis and diaphoresis, drying up swelling through astringency, draining fluids from the GI tract through tonic bitterness, and expectorating mucous from the lungs. These would be seen as physiological effects of action from plants with predominantly drying characteristics. Many other plants have drying effects stemming from their overall energetic qualities, such as being warming. Most herbs that are warming tend to be at least somewhat drying as heat has a tendency to increase dryness.

Astringency is one of, if not the most, important drying characteristc. This action directly effects the tissues themselves. Astringents contract and tighten tissues, prevent liquids from being lost and remedy fluid accumulation and stagnancy. Astringents can express either cooling or warming energetics and it is good form to understand their unique characteristics when combining them in astringent formulas.

It is imperative to know the list of moistening herbs when making formulas, as it is essential to add herbs with some moistening characteristics in order to balance out the drying effects of most herbs within the formula.

 

According to Materia Medica Monthly:

“From an Ayurvedic perspective, herbs which are drying would be said to aggravate the vata dosha, which is the constitutional type associated with dryness- whereas kapha is associated with moisture in the form of water and pitta is associated with moisture in the form of oils. This shows that administering moistening demulcent plants is critical for treating vata, especially if there are other remedies you wish to give them, such as nervines and antispasmodics for their nervousness, stress and tension. The vata dosha is considered one of the more difficult constitutions to treat because it is associated with the Ether Element (wind) and is thus constantly changing.

Having a dry constitution (yin deficiency) is an increasing pattern in our western culture and it is important to recognise the symptoms of a dry tissue state and administer appropriate moistening herbs and refrain from drying herbs in order to bring about balance. Unfortunately, a dry tissue state inhibits the functionality of herbs administered as the dryness does not allow for proper absorption of the plant’s medicinal constituents thus rendering the remedy ineffectual.

According to Materia Medica Monthly:

“Signs of an excess of dryness includes: dry eyes, skin, hair, cracked nails, dry mucous in the nose, dry stool/constipation, nervousness, fatigue, tension, anxiety, insomnia, musculoskeletal tension, cracking/popping joints, and a dry tongue. If you see these signs and symptoms, it is critical that either you do not administer any drying herbs, or if you do, that you are giving an adequate amount of moistening, demulcent, yin supplementing herbs and foods to balance the drying effects of the other herbs.”

Warming Astringents

Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)

Cooling Astringents

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
Blackberry root (Rubus spp.)
Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Oak bark (Quercus alba)
Plantain (Plantago major)
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Willow (Salix alba)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Wood Betony (Stachys betonica)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Thank you Materia Medica Monthly for this list